Ode to the Cabin

cow camp

Cowboys and pioneers—and even I—lived inspiring lives in tiny houses before they were a pop-culture phenomenon.

For the first 18 years of my life, my family lived in a small mountain cabin nestled in the pines, with a fenced backyard and two old railroad cars off to the side where we processed meat and hides we harvested. There was nothing fancy about the cabin, but it had everything we needed: a roof over our heads, a decent-sized living room and kitchen, two small bedrooms, a tiny bathroom and a back porch with an old potbelly stove filled with coal that heated the entire house. Built in the early 1900s, our home was originally insulated with newspaper, and each winter we battled frozen pipes, often on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve. Floors rotted because there wasn’t a concrete foundation. Mice scurried through the smallest openings and taunted my mom and dog. My friends, many of who lived in modern subdivision homes, enjoyed coming to our humble abode, because we could genuinely pretend to be characters from Little House on the Prairie or The Boxcar Children series of books.

I didn’t always think fondly of this modest dwelling and all of its quirks, dreaming instead of living in a house with a wraparound porch, dishwasher, floral wallpaper and stairs. Today, however, I drive by it nearly every day and can’t help but recall warm, loving memories that shaped my life, and sometimes I long to live there again. From the road, I can see the current owners have updated the interior, but I wonder if they ever noticed the crude carvings I made in the kitchen cabinets with my dad’s pocketknife, or my growth chart penciled on a trim board.

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